Hima Bista: “We can not make everyone happy”

As the executive director of Women LEAD Nepal, Hima Bista continues to inspire many youths to become leaders some day. How did she become one herself?

Anushka Nepal

  • Read Time 5 min.

Kathmandu: When Hima  Bista was a child, she and her family once traveled all over Nepal during her winter break. This would go on to have a profound effect on her life.

“Every step of the way, I would learn something new,” she recalls. That time she spent with her family made her who she is today, she says. Every time she felt lost, her father would take her to explore new destinations. Once, they walked all the way from Mustang to Pokhara. These excursions would help her understand the “deeper meaning of life”. She believes that she is still learning; her Twitter bio reads: “I am understanding life.”

Hima Bista is the executive director of Women LEAD Nepal, an organization that provides young women in Nepal with skills, support, and opportunity—with an ambitious goal—to help them “become leaders and changemakers in their schools, communities, nation, and world”. Bista leads the organization as its executive director.

Hima Bista grew up in an elite family, in Kathmandu, with more than one anthropologist under one roof. She received her early education from St. Mary’s School, Jawalakhel. She completed her high school from Simsbury High School, Connecticut, in the United States. She got her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from St Bede’s College, in Shimla, India; Master’s in Business Administration from Kathmandu University School Of Management; and M.Phil in English from Institute of Advanced Communication, Education, and Research (IACER).

Any free time she had, she spent it either reading or writing. “I was a reader, a dreamer, and a seeker,” she says. “As a child, I loved to read, I still do.” She wrote stories in her free time. She did not really care if the story was good or bad; all she wanted to do was read and write.

By the time she was 12, Bista had started to become interested in politics. Since her family also has a political background, Bista was very interested in rallies and on how voting works. At that age, she was a big fan of Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani former prime minister. Bhutto’s autobiography, Daughter of the East, has had a huge impact on Bista’s life—she saw it as “a feminist pathfinding”, however unearned privileges Benazir Bhutto may have had.

But the major turning point for Bista was her time in the US, she says, where she went on her own when she was 15.

“The time I spent in the US gave me a new perspective in life,” she says. It was a challenging experience for her. She came out of her eggshell and started exploring her life in the US—from people to culture, all of it was new for her, and it helped her view the world with a new perspective. “I started loving independence, and this was one of the turning points of my life,” she says.

After her high school, Bista did her undergraduate in a convent college in Shimla, India, which would also go on to shape her into the person she is today, she says.  “I never had a proper plan for my career.” Bista lived “in the moment” and even after her undergraduate degree, she was still trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

Once I know that I have done everything in my power to set the plate ready for the next generation, I will gladly pass the mic. Until that happens, I will keep on working.

Her family faced a setback when her grandfather, Dor Bahadur Bista, an anthropologist and writer, went missing in 1995. He was believed  to be alive and was seen in Haridwar 2000 A.D, living his life among the sadhus and jogis. He never returned home. Even during this chaos in her life, Bista managed to complete her undergraduate degree. Bista returned back to Kathmandu, confused yet full of life.

Her father one day randomly asked her if she would like to do an MBA, here in Kathmandu School of Management. She agreed, and later on got her degree in Human Resources.

She said that her love for Human Resources grew while doing her masters. “It required talking to people, a lot of human interaction,” she says. As an HR professional, Bista loved to give people advice and help them in terms of their job. The job sometimes required her to convey some bad news to the employees, making people have negative feelings towards her. But, as she says, “We can not make everyone happy, neither at work nor in life.”

After working for 18 years in various positions as an HR professional, Bista thought it was time to move on to something different. “I wanted to work on something different, somewhere outside of Kathmandu,” she says.

Within a few days of making this decision, Bista applied for a job in Possible Health (Nyaya Health Nepal), a nonprofit that aims to improve healthcare for underprivileged communities. Her job required her to travel back and forth between Achham and Dolakha. She loved her job but she also wanted to be able to lead an organization someday. She did not see that possibility in that job, so she resigned after working there for two years.

“I knew that it was time for me to be a leader,” she said. She believed that she would be able to lead the youths with the experience and knowledge she had, and help them become an empowered person someday.

That is when she applied for the position of an Executive Director of Women LEAD Nepal. Thus began her journey as part of Women LEAD Nepal.

Having this position means that I have much more to accomplish yet.

In the meantime, Bista continues to be engaged in activism for equity and against patriarchy. She has always believed in equity and it was visible to everyone when she gave a fierce speech at the Women’s March, which took place on 12 February, in response to the Immigration Department’s proposal that required Nepali women under 40 to obtain an official proposal from their family and local ward office to travel abroad.

“We are Nirmala, we are Samjhana, we are Angira and today, we are Bhagrathi,” Bista said in her speech. “These politicians will need our votes for the next election and let me just say that my vagina will vote you out!”

Bista always wanted to lead an organization, and she finally achieved her goal. But this was not the end for her. “Having this position means that I have much more to accomplish yet,” she says.

For her, being a leader does not mean that she is always on top. It means to be able to walk alongside every single person and lead all of them together.

Bista says she wants to work further to ensure the welfare of women and to smash the patriarchy.

“People ask me if I am ready to pass the mic yet,” she says. “Once I know that I have done everything in my power to set the plate ready for the next generation, I will gladly pass the mic. Until that happens, I will keep on working.”